Zim seek to boost Olympics team

12 May, 2024 - 00:05 0 Views
Zim seek to boost Olympics team Ringisai Mapondera

The Sunday Mail

Ellina Mhlanga

Senior Sports Reporter

WITH less than three months before the Paris 2024 Olympic Games come to life, Team Zimbabwe chef de mission Ringisai Mapondera says they are still expecting a few more athletes to qualify.

Four athletes have so far earned their places at the Games scheduled for the French capital from July 26 to August 11.

These are marathon runners Isaac Mpofu and Rutendo Nyahora, United States-based sprinter Tapiwa Makarawu and rower Stephen Cox.

Speaking to Zimpapers Sports on Team Zimbabwe’s progress towards qualification and preparations for those who have made it, Mapondera said they were hopeful of getting more qualification from swimming and athletics.

They are also optimistic golfer Scott Vincent will qualify.

“So, for now, the other national federation we are looking at is swimming. Swimming has a deadline of 23 June, 2024 for the final qualifications,” said Mapondera.

“Athletics is still on. They have got a deadline of 30 June, 2024. So, there are still available slots for the athletes to be able to qualify. In swimming, we have Donata (Katai), we have Paige (van der Westhuizen), Liam Davis and Denilson Cyprianos.

“From the current performance, it looks like Cyprianos may be one of those who will join Team Zimbabwe. We are hoping that golf will qualify. We have Scott Vincent and we anticipate that he will also make it. He is pretty close to the numbers that are required for the Paris Olympics.

“For judo, there is one athlete (Christi-Rose Pretorius). But from the meetings we have had, the statistics are not favouring that particular athlete.”

Cyprianos has had some promising performances, winning a gold medal for Zimbabwe in 200m backstroke at the African Games held in Accra, Ghana, in March.

He also picked up silver in the 100m backstroke.

Zimbabwe are pinning their hopes on universality slots in some of the sport codes in the event none of the athletes automatically makes the grade during the remaining qualification period.

The universalities are awarded by the respective international federations based on an athlete’s performance.

Mpofu was the first Zimbabwean athlete to qualify, securing his place at the Games in December 2022. He is in camp in Harare.

Cox then made it into Team Zimbabwe when qualifying for the men’s single sculls event last year.

Earlier this year, the Zimbabwean trained with the Australian Rowing Club. He has now returned to his base, the United Kingdom, to continue with his preparations.

Makarawu earned his ticket in 200m last month, breaking a 20-year national record in the event when posting a time of 19.93 seconds.

The previous record was 20.12 seconds set by Brian Dzingai in 2004.

The qualifying time for Paris is 20.16 seconds.

Nyahora is the latest athlete to qualify after receiving a universality slot from World Athletics. She fell short of the automatic qualifying standard of 2 hours 26 minutes 50 seconds for women in marathon.

She ran 2 hours 34 minutes 29 seconds to finish ninth at the Hannover Marathon last month but her consistency saw her earning the universality slot.

The Zimbabwe Olympic Committee (ZOC) have been working with national associations seeking qualification in assisting the athletes and also in preparations for those who have qualified.

Mapondera said: “The Zimbabwe Olympic Committee (ZOC), in the best way it can, has supported nearly every association that has been vying to qualify for the Olympics. For instance, at the beginning, towards these Olympics, we had 10 athletes who were on the International Olympic Solidarity Fund. Swimming had the bulk of those.

“Also, for the qualifiers, ZOC has been putting in money into that, for travel. Several associations have been assisted.

“The athletes we are talking of who have qualified, Isaac Mpofu has received his support towards his training camp, support for him and the coach. So, basically the national federations are primarily responsible for these athletes and this is where we have these meetings with their team management,” he added.

They have been holding regular meetings with the national associations. Their next meeting is scheduled for later this month.

“So, for the sport codes that are there, over and above the meetings that we have with these team management, we also have meetings with Team Paris that is assigned to our national federation and in those meetings, we discuss team size,” said Mapondera.

“For instance, the anticipated team size for Zimbabwe, and they also give us their input based on what they are seeing and the performance of athletes. So, all in all, our target has been 10 athletes and we are praying that we do get to that now that we only have individual sport codes left.”

ZOC had hoped to have a team sport qualifying to improve their team size, but earmarked sport codes “hockey” and “rugby sevens” did not make it.

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